Building a Sustainable Future

February 18, 2016
ASCE Executive Director Tom Smith

ASCE Executive Director Tom Smith

By 2050, around 7 billion people globally will be urban dwellers, and 60 percent of the needed infrastructure has yet to be designed. This unprecedented urbanization of our populations should not be seen as a systemic problem for engineers, it should be seen as an opportunity and a call to action to improve and expand sustainable practices.

In January, ASCE hosted a summit that brought civil engineering leaders together with key stakeholders and practitioners to create a road map on how to transform the civil engineer’s role and practice for a sustainable future.

ASCE President Mark Woodson, P.E., L.S., D.WRE, F.ASCE, kicked off the summit by placing it in the context of the Paris climate accord recently signed by nearly 200 countries. “This is truly a historic agreement. As civil engineers, we have the capacity to change the world. We are the builders of society’s infrastructure. But our future prosperity and the world’s future is at risk because the infrastructure, the foundation of our future, is dangerously deteriorating and not sustainable.”

I believe that Mark’s words about the capacity to change the world hold true in what civil engineers do every day. Many of the adopted Sustainable Development Goals are directly dependent on civil engineering, such as clean water and sanitation, sustainable cities and communities, and climate action.

I hope all civil engineers will contemplate why they became a civil engineer, and what their legacy will be for future generations. I believe it is to make a sustainable future not only possible, but achievable. Now more than ever we need to band together not only to look at our present challenges, but to find sustainable solutions that will ensure the quality of life of generations to come.

The quest for a sustainable future comes down to the civil engineering profession. Together, working through ASCE, we can solve our world’s challenges.





In case you missed it, here are some other exciting opportunities around the ASCE community:

ASCE debuts a new way to expand skills – Guided Online Courses. The Society has launched an all-new, state of the art learning experience that expands participants’ skills via highly interactive, instructor-led programs. ASCE’s Guided Online Courses will use a wide variety of multimedia, from video lectures, interactive exercises, and case studies, to weekly discussion board topics among peers taking the course. Each weekly module can be worked on at the learner’s convenience. Two debut courses cover earthquake resilience based on ASCE 7, and drinking water technologies.

Share expertise, support ASCE and join your peers on a committee. Many civil engineers volunteer technical and professional knowledge by serving on ASCE committees that support the Society’s vision and mission to advance civil engineering practice. ASCE has five standing Society committees – Advancing the Profession, Education, Technical Advancement, Member Communities and Public Policy – each with subcommittees. If your membership is in good standing and have an appropriate background, express your interest via an easy online form.

Dream Big: Engineering Wonders of the World, our giant-screen movie now in production with MacGillivray Freeman Films and presented by Bechtel, will display many of the amazing contributions to the world by engineers who dreamed big. The film is scheduled for release in February 2017. Director Greg MacGillivray recently offered an early glimpse into the film.

The winners of our Dream Big contest in association with the film will be revealed during National Engineers Week, Feb. 21-27. More than 1,400 members entered to win one of three “dream” prizes: a trip for two to a Dream Big international location shoot; a trip to Laguna Beach, CA, to attend an exclusive rough cut screening of Dream Big at MacGillivray Freeman Films’ facilities; and a Dream Big premiere event in the winner’s local community. I’ll share the winners here next month; they also will be announced during EWeek in our social media, in ASCE SmartBrief, and ASCE News Weekly.

Break out your tux or gown and come to ASCE’s 2016 OPAL Gala to celebrate living legends of civil engineering and state-of-the-art projects. We’ll pay tribute to each of our five Outstanding Projects And Leaders honorees and a number of other notable ASCE award winners, then witness the opening of the envelope to announce the 2016 Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement winner from among six nominated projects. The Gala will be held March 17 in Arlington, VA. Reserve discounted tickets now. Hope to see you there!

ASCE’s Bridges Photo Contest is back for 2016, seeking the most impressive images and their photographers to honor with cash prizes and possible inclusion in the Society’s Bridges 2017 calendar. This year, photos of historic bridges will be judged under a new category. Two winners will be selected in each of seven total categories. Visit the contest page on Facebook at for complete rules and to submit entries.

Head to Orlando in March for the Construction Institute’s 2016 Summit. Gain insights on the latest techniques, technologies, and strategies used to manage risk and pursue innovation on projects at CI Summit 2016, coming to Orlando in March. Earn as many as 17 PDHs, including an astronaut-led technical tour of the Kennedy Space Center. Get current and expand your knowledge with ASCE’s Construction Institute.

Were you aware you could save as much as 80 percent on prescription drugs with ASCE? How much you pay for medications varies for the same prescription based on insurance, coupons, and discounts. ASCE membership includes a great benefit that can save as much as 80 percent on most prescriptions – the GoodRx discount savings card. Save yourself the headache of outrageous prices or comparing local vs. mail-order costs. Discounts apply to everyone in your family – even pets! – with no quantity limits or hidden fees. Download your savings card and try a price comparison tool at

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